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New Orleans JAZZFEST ‘11
Written By: Tish Michel
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New Orleans JAZZFEST ‘11
After 33 years together, The Radiators play their “farewell performance” at the close of Jazz Fest 2011.
New Orleans JAZZFEST ‘11
Gone Fishin’
A FOND FAREWELL TO
THE RADIATORS

    If you saw Treme this week on HBO, The Radiators were the band playing at Tipatinas towards the end of the show. June 11 will mark the final performance of the Radiators.  Yes my friends, I soooo admit to being a “Fishhead” (endearing term for Radiators fans).  The band members are: Ed Volker on keyboards, guitarists Dave Malone and Camile Baudoin, Reggie Scanlan on bass and drummer Frank Bua. I probably caught my first Radiators show close to thirty years ago and have been a fan ever since.  I met and worked with Camile’s ex-wife Kitty at Jazzfest the first few years after Katrina and always stop by for a chat with her at the “lost kids” tent which looks onto the Gentilly stage where the Radiators have closed the festival for many years.
    I went to an interview with the Radiators at the Allison Minor stage a short time before their final Jazz Fest show.  I got their two interviews prior as I fully realized that if I wanted a great seat to record the interview, I’d best get there very early. I believe every seat in the room was filled by the time the interview began.  One of the attendees wore a vintage Radiators T-shirt which said “Too stupid to Quit”; I guess the band members have smartened up after 33 years. The room was filled with Fishheads as we were there to hear their story as the end of an era in N’walins music was fast approaching. I just loved the way the three band members present for the interview, Ed, Dave and Reggie, would finish one another’s sentences and stories. They were like a happy fifty year married couple reminiscing about their days together.
    It all began one afternoon in ‘78 when these five extraordinary musicians got together for a Jam session/wine tasting in Ed Volker’s garage. According to Dave Malone, “We were intending to get together and drink a lot of wine; we did that very well!” Reggie Scanlan said, “ It was like you were on a wave… you didn’t want to lose it.” And so it was this incredible chemistry that caused all five members to quit their other groups the very next day and form the Radiators. They have been together ever since, are still great friends, have played over 4,500 gigs, toured the world many times over, and are quitting at the top of their game. Less than a year ago, Ed Volker had several dreams which led him to the decision that it was time for him to get off the road and call it a day.
    In ’78 and ’79 The Radiators played Jazz Fest backing up Earl King. In 1980 they began having their own show at Jazz Fest and about 1983 on they always closed the final day at the second largest stage now known as the Gentilly Stage. When asked about special Jazz Fest memories, the guys chuckled about how fans would enjoy great slides in the mud on those rainy days. Reggie remarked how it must have been really bad going home with all that mud in their cars and Malone said, “Hey, they packed their muddy selves in someone else’s car”. Then Dave got serious and said about closing the Fest, “It’s always been special.  We’ve always been extremely honored to get to do this. It’s a big deal. This is the best festival in the world.”
    And so, close the Fest they did in classic Rads style. I broke my tradition of seeing the Neville Brothers at the Acura stage to see my last Radiators show. It was awesome even though I was way in the back under a shade tree for most of the show. They funkifyed the fest with their unique style of Rock ‘n’ Roll. I got momentarily misty when they sang the chorus,  “no matter how hard it gets, never let your fire go out.”  I had to chuckle as Dave Malone sang “You Ain’t Goin Nowhere,” which included the line, “Pick up your money and pack up your tent,” which was exactly what’s happening.
    The show was loaded with special guests including guitarist Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule), trombonists Mark Mullins, Craig Kline, and Greg Hicks from Bonerama, guitarist Paul Barerre from Little Feat, and Dave’s brother Tommy Malone from Subdudes and MysticK Drone.  I’d like to think that when the Radiators sang “Wild and Free” they were singing and playing straight from their hearts to me (and the other thousands upon thousands at the show) as they sang, “you don’t know what it means to me, to be here with you, wild and free.” If you’re a Tranzfusion fan, you know the camaraderie of the loyal fans and the band. The same is true on a larger scale for the Fishheads and the Rads.  That sense of community is what we all felt as the show closed. However, Fest producer Quint Davis, who is a stickler for shows starting and ending on time, broke his rules by saying, “I don’t care what time it is. There’s got to be one more.” The Radiators and their special guests conferred and went on to play Allan Toussaint’s “I Like it Like That”. And with the closing notes Jazz Fest ‘11 was over.
    What will happen to the members in the future? Ed Volker’s not doing a thing for at least six months. Then we’ll just have to wait and see. Dave Monroe’s been playing in a group with his children and children of other famous New Orlean’s musicians in a group called Chilluns (I believe I wrote about them last year). Reggie Scanlan and drummer Willie Green (Neville Brothers) are forming a group called Unusual Suspects. Reggie and Camile Baudoin have also joined the Mardi Gras Indians Orchestra. Of course it’s possible that the Radiators will reunite in the future without Ed Volker or perhaps Ed will join in for local gigs.  
    This weekend The Radiators play their last three gigs at Tipatina’s. The shows sold out in minutes and have been dubbed, “The Last Watusi”. Thanks for 33 years of great music!
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